Despite fresh government restrictions, the CEO of the country’s first cryptocurrency exchange has big plans far beyond Southern Africa.
By Joseph Dana | May 25, 2018
When you think about hyperinflation, Zimbabwe often comes to mind. At the height of the Zimbabwean economic crisis in 2000, images of $10bn notes were common. After years of mismanagement, the country once known as Southern Africa’s breadbasket has become the continent’s basket case.
Amidst this economic upheaval, Tawanda Kembo came of age. A soft-spoken software engineer from Harare, Kembo watched as fiat money lost all value. Life savings vanished before people’s eyes. “I actually consider myself a fourth-generation engineer, but unlike my father and grandfather I decided not to build roads,” Kembo told me in a phone interview. “I decided to build software.” This passion for software drove him to his latest project called Golix, Zimbabwe’s first cryptocurrency exchange.
Kembo’s personality and drive typify a new generation of African technology entrepreneurs. They see the power of technology to transform not only their own countries but the African continent as a whole.They think beyond borders and consider ways to make trading, communicating, and partnering between countries easier. Bespectacled and wearing jeans, the 30-year-old software engineer could easily be mistaken for any Silicon Valley startup CEO. Instead of opting for a comfortable job in the United States, however, he built Golix, one of two cryptocurrency exchanges in Zimbabwe.
Formerly known as BitFinance, Golix rebranded in 2017 and has rapidly expanded its offering beyond simple cryptocurrency trading. The exchange has roughly 50,000 customers and trading has exceeded $10m since inception. Through its mobile wallets, Golix offers users the ability to easily deposit and withdraw money from their mobile accounts. The exchange makes roughly 3% on every transaction on its platform. Unlike other exchanges, Golix offers instant deposits and withdrawals from their offices, which has created some headaches in recent days as the Zimbabwean government attempts to outlaw cryptocurrency. More on that below.
For Kembo, cryptocurrency can change how money moves between African countries. An efficient means to move money across borders cheaply and securely will move Africa towards a powerful and competitive single market.
Bitcoin as a buzzword
Bitcoin’s popularity and intrigue is undeniable these days. Everywhere you look on the internet, there are articles praising Bitcoin or forecasting how blockchain – the technology that allows Bitcoin to function – will change the world.